On how the NSA can be generations ahead

Tyler Durden camera_lumina at hotmail.com
Sun Aug 1 14:23:24 PDT 2004

Well, there's no doubt that what Variola says is basically correct.

But it doesn't exactly apply to the specific situation I was referring to, 
which was whether something "inconspicuous" might be slipped into a CO 
unbeknownst to the rank-and-file (ie, the CO manager would probably receive 
some kind of order saying there'd be a special installation one day..."just 
leave those guys alone and don't worry about the little box they're putting 
in...it just measures traffic is all"). But the kind of iron that would be 
needed to unpackage and then pull out and record pretty much "everything" 
would still be a huge, power-hungry beast with mutliple racks and cards. Why 
do I say this? Well...

When I spoke of 0.13um technology, my thought had nothing to do with the 
yield, but merely with the size/power of the device. Examination of current 
off-the-shelf chip architectures (and network processors are still a couple 
of years behind the ASICs) indicates that, unless a LOT of chips in that 
range are used, they wouldn't be able to do the above.

This means they've got to do all this unpacking in some kind of central 
location (ie, not a CO), where I do believe what Variola speaks of is 
possible. BUT, they've got to get it all there. This means they'd either 
have to put in tons of lasers and gear (essentially creating a 1:1 copy of 
the current transport network), or else CALEA the most likely batches of 
traffic and then send it back. They probably WANT to get it all (GIG-BE, 
anyone?) but they simply don't have the gear nor power nor footprint 
available to them. If nothing else, it would be hugely conspicious. There'd 
be no way to hide it from the craft, nor from the rest of the world (all 
that gear would need a big army of secret craftpersons).

This leads me back to burst mode. I'm sure there are many uses for burst 
mode, but I'd also bet this is one of the drivers. It's probably worth 
examining whether they're putting a lot of money into signaling. Look for 
unheard of startups as paying members of OIF and the GMPLS fora.

No, the NSA is probably generations ahead in some areas, but their fabs 
aren't much better than what's available commercially.


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